The Lead

What to know ahead of the first — and likely only — U.S. Senate debate in Pa.

By: - October 25, 2022 7:21 am
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos

The Democratic and Republican nominees for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania will face off in the first — and likely only — debate ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, one of the few chances for voters to see the candidates speak outside of advertisements, social media posts, and rallies.

Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz will participate in a televised, one-hour debate as they vie to replace retiring GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in the race, which could determine political control in the upper chamber next year.

The debate will air Tuesday at 8 p.m. across 62 counties, and radio stations will have access to air the forum. The candidates will debate in Harrisburg at WHTM-TV’s studios.

Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May and was sidelined from the campaign trail until August to recover, likely faces added pressure to perform well. The Democratic nominee has faced repeated questions from Oz about his health and whether he is fit to serve in public office.

Oz also accused Fetterman of dodging debates, a claim the Democrat faced in the May primary after skipping one debate.

Fetterman agreed to one debate ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, and because he still struggles with auditory processing, he will use closed captions to ensure he understands the questions.

Fetterman has used the closed caption system during interviews with the press since the stroke.

The system also means there will be a delay between a question and Fetterman’s response. The moderators will inform viewers of the technology before the debate begins. Fetterman’s campaign also requested two practice sessions, so he could get used to using the system.

Last week, Fetterman released a note from his doctor, saying he is recovering well since he suffered a stroke in May and can “work full duty in public office.” His campaign has declined to release in-depth medical records, and Fetterman has argued that he has been transparent about his health and recovery.

Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, told the Capital-Star earlier this fall that there might be some added pressure for Fetterman to debate and address potential concerns about his health. But overall, he said pushing them off until closer to Election Day is a “textbook strategy” to minimize possible attacks from opponents.

Fetterman is likely to face questions and attacks from Oz for his policies on crime, a topic that has become a focus of the Oz campaign in recent months.

The forum is also a chance for Oz, who has faced accusations of being out-of-touch with working-class people and a carpetbagger, to attempt to connect with voters.

The celebrity doctor also might have to answer questions on issues he’s indirectly answered or walked back on the campaign trail, including his views on abortion and firearms.

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